I’m not always a fan of funny dumb. I understand the appeal, but for some reason, the humor doesn’t always land for me. I grew up with Mel Brooks and Monty Python. I’ll admit to laughing at some of the gags, but mostly I was indulging my stupid friends. Everyone knows if you want nerd clout, you have to love Python. I’ve watched more hours of The Three Stooges and Benny Hill than I care to admit, but the latter I mostly watched because the music made the show a vibe no matter what was happening, and it was a semi-naughty show to watch. Hundreds Of Beavers which played at the Fantasia International Fim Festival is the kind of surprising belly laugh, spit take, cheek pain from smiling type of film that you like in spite of yourself.
The full-length black and white movie, directed by Mike Cheslik and cowritten by Cheslik and star Ryland Brickson Cole Tews, oozes charm. It uses madcap antics, plushies for days, apparently on leave from the furry convention, and sparse dialogue to propel the story hilariously forward. An orchard owner and spiked cider called Applejack maker who spends his days entertaining the locals and being perpetually and stupendously drunk has his world turned upside down when beavers gnaw their way through his Applejack supply and orchard. He was so obliterated he never saw it coming, and the devastation left him homeless, penniless, and rudderless. Left to survive in the cold frigid mountainside, he eventually learns how to trap animals to trade for supplies and weapons. He makes these purchases ala gameworld tavern-style trading from a local furrier who just so happens to have a lovely, single daughter.
After meeting the bewitching furrier’s daughter, the former Applejack addict does everything in his power to get his life together so he can marry her. A friendly and knowledgeable native teaches him how to trap; time does the rest. Eventually, the furrier tells him he will give his daughter’s hand in marriage if the man brings him literally hundreds of beavers. The bombastic ending features an endless parade of intelligent beavers and more laughs than imaginable.
The decision to utilize humans in mascot beaver suits is a surprisingly effective one. Not only does it keep the practical gore of killing and gutting hundreds of animals at bay, but it also adds to the entire film’s surreal comedy. Tews is charming and maddening in equal measure. Much of what he does could be annoying if he didn’t play his brewer-turned-trapper so bewildered and deadpan. Everything irritating he does is filtered through his completely dim-witted innocence. This is a hapless, mostly harmless guy who manages to fall ass-backward into wild situations and wacky circumstances. He also fails upwards more than he should. That combines to make him the hero rather than the story’s villain.
Neither the trapper nor the beavers are the bad guys. The beavers who live in civilized, highly organized, and hilariously intelligent massive communities destroyed the trapper’s life, which should make them the bad guys. Still, their single-minded focus on tasks and oblivious nature make them sympathetic and fun to watch. Jockeying between the trapper and the beavers’ point of view thanks to an employee intake propaganda film of sorts, comedy and fantasy blur to emerge with just the tiniest whiff of horror. If the beavers were real, their systematic genocide for clothing would be terrifying. Remember how you felt when you saw The Wizard of Oz for the first time? It was deeply unnerving in spots, and if you really think about what you are watching in Hundreds Of Beavers, that is too. Thankfully this bonkers film never takes itself seriously and allows us to live in the fantasy.
Hundreds Of Beavers presents as a silly comedy rich with dumb humor, but in between the layers of goofy jokes is brilliant comedy that you have to pay attention to avoid missing. Something is happening every second, and nuanced laughs hide beneath blunt fart jokes. With references to the Keystone Cops, Betty Boop, silent films, cartoons, and of course, Looney Toons, it reads like a modern but timeless homage to humor that is universal. If you ever watched the Adventures of Roadrunner and thought Wile E. Coyote really was a misunderstood super genius, Hundreds Of Beavers is for you. It’s sure to be a cult classic.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.